Listen as Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder, chats with Amy Shojai, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and Dr. Lynn Bahr, CEO of Dezi Roo, about keeping your cats active, playful, and enriched inside your home.
This video is part of the Pet Voices LIVE series. CLICK HERE to see the full schedule of videos.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 0:01
Hello, and welcome to Pet Voices LIVE. We are talking about cat enrichment and play for cats today, which is such an important topic and such a big part I think of this pivotal time that we’re in going from how we used to think of cats or how we should think of cats. I am very happy that I have with me today two wonderful women.
We have Amy Shojai here. Amy, give a wave. She’s a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant and the award-winning author of more than 35 pet care books. One of which I have right here, Cat Life. She lives in Texas with her furry muses, Bravo the dog and Karma the cat. Thanks for coming, Amy.
We also have Dr. Lynn Bahr. She graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. So a veterinarian… that could be a tongue twister. We have her with us today. She’s also the CEO of Dezi & Roo, which is a company that designs, manufactures, and sells enrichment products that enhance the lives of cats.
So this is completely a cat-focused, cat-loving, cat-enriching Facebook Live today. So thank you so much for both of you. I’m excited because we’ve had great conversations behind the scenes that everyone else doesn’t get to hear. But where I really want to start is understanding what’s your view on two things, how we got here as a society and how you got here personally. You don’t step into this world without a great passion for cats and love for them.
So, Lynn, which I want to call you, Dr. Lynn. Why don’t you start and give us a little bit of background, kind of set the stage for how you got to be where you are right now?
Dr. Lynn Bahr, CEO of Dezi & Roo – 1:46
Well, I credit my entire career to a little ball of gray and white fluff with a pink nose. His name was Rudolph and he found me in 1980 and spoke to me in a way that only animals can. We all know that they can change our lives and this little boy changed mine. He showed me the world of cats and I changed my entire career. I had no idea I was going to be a veterinarian. I was in my mid-20s and he showed me the way. I just credit my whole career to him.
And so, I went into veterinary medicine with the goal of practicing just on cats. Back in the day, that was not common. It is much more common now. But I always just wanted to work on cats. And then eight years ago, I was adopted by two more cats, and they are Dezi and Roo. They are my first indoor-only cats and they showed me a whole new world by revolving around cats and what they need and so on. And that’s how I started my company.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 3:01
That’s awesome. I feel like all of us have this like “There was this one cat” or for some people, it’s a dog. Whatever that animal is, everyone has that inspiring story of how it started.
So Amy, what was yours?
Amy Shojai, Certified Animal Behaviorist – 3:15
Well, I was newly married. Well, I grew up with dogs, a pack of shelties. And then when I was early in my marriage, the first present my husband got me was a German Shepherd. And he was kind of my furry muse. He’s the reason I started writing. And over the years, I’d always loved cats, but he was not a fan of cats until a little kitten showed up. Adopted us. Showed up at a friend’s house and I got this frantic call saying “My four-year-old found a kitten asleep in the flowerpot on the back porch and she’s allergic. Can you help?”
And that was my heart cat, Seren, and she lived almost 22 years. She was my little Siamese wannabe. When I first met her, she climbed up my blue jean leg and put her little paws here. And you know that was that
But I’ve always been a cat lover and so that was kind of the beginning, the furry inspiration. And this was after I’d lost my first German Shepherd. So I had a Shepherd for years and years and then I had only a cat for years and years. And then suddenly, I had both and it’s the best of all possible furry worlds.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 4:45
I agree. And there is always that one that’s just… and you don’t just remember it up here. You remember it in here.
Amy Shojai, Certified Animal Behaviorist – 4:54
Oh, you can hear me getting emotional.
CHANGES TO THE HUMAN + CAT BOND
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 4:57
Yes. It’s making me remember all the… Ah, can’t go there!
But what I think is important in all of this is we talked about back when, and Lynn, you mentioned you have your first two indoor cats. And I think the history and it’s been a topic this week on some of my Facebook Lives around how we used to think of cats and we being society, used to think of cats and used to treat them versus where we’re coming today and how the cat enrichment piece is really so important in keeping their innateness alive while acknowledging their ability to have this bond and this caring.
So I would love to talk for a minute just about what you’ve seen that has changed. Where did we start that you want to start from and know of in terms of treating cats and where are we headed? So Lynn, where do you think those places are?
Dr. Lynn Bahr, CEO of Dezi & Roo – 5:55
Well, obviously, it’s a newer thing to have an indoor-only cat. Within about the past 15 years or so it’s really become popular. And that’s changed how we relate to them. It certainly has strengthened the bond because now they’re living inside our house and they’re living inside of there 24/7. They’re sleeping with us, we see them when we walk in the house, and so the bond has really strengthened as far as people and their cat.
I know, again, back in the day, years ago when they went in and out or when they were just out for a cat, many people fed them and took care of them, but didn’t claim them. Because it was an outdoor cat, so they were like, “Well, it’s not really my cat.”
But now that they’re living inside, people are claiming them. “They’re my cat.” “I own them.” “They belong to me.” And so that that psyche has changed a lot because the cats are getting a lot more attention and a lot more care. Veterinary care, indoor cat enrichment, everything.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 7:06
Amy, what would you add to that?
Amy Shojai, Certified Animal Behaviorist – 7:10
Early in my career I worked as a veterinary technician and back in the day, we saw mostly, this was a large animal practice, so there were dogs, horses, pigs. The vet’s mom raised goats, so we had kids running and climbing the counters and everything. Very few cats coming in. The cats were indoor or outdoor and we just didn’t see that many cats. And then the next place when I moved from a rural setting to Lexington, Kentucky, and worked, we saw a lot more cats.
And of course, as Dr. Lynn says, when the cats moved from the barnyard, from the barn cats into the parlor, and suddenly they’re not doing their business outside. They’re doing them in the litter box, and you’ve truncated their territory and maybe cats now where they had a whole field where they could share or you know, one cat owned at the barn loft and the other one, the backyard. Now they’re asked to share your pillow and one toilet area. Now we’re seeing behavior issues that I’m having to deal with and explain to people “No, the cat’s not mad at you. This is normal behavior” and how we can deal with that. So people are understanding that cats don’t act out of meanness or vindictiveness, but we need to understand them better because we’re living with them now. And I think that’s a real change in the dynamic.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 8:43
It sounds like you both have been able to witness that shift and are on the leading edge of making it not only be the way but how to be the way because I think like what you just brought up, Amy, is a big part of that. It’s one thing to feel like it should be different, but to actually understand how to change it is something completely different.
So, when it comes to we’re accepting now that we’ve brought them in, we’ve completely changed their world, and we haven’t taken the time to try to understand how to make this new world, a world that mixes well with what they know and brings out the best in them.
Dr. Lynn, what has been something that you’ve said, “Here’s a solution”?
INDOOR CAT CHALLENGES
Dr. Lynn Bahr, CEO of Dezi & Roo – 9:32
Well, I believe play solves everything. In veterinary medicine, we’ve seen a dramatic difference in the conditions that we treat from outdoor cats or indoor-outdoor cats to strictly indoor cats.
Our indoor cats are now suffering from a whole host of medical conditions that are really stemmed from the fact that they’re stressed, they’re confined in four walls, they lack sufficient enrichment, and they lack sufficient resources that are their own.
And so the medical conditions have changed. And truly, the answer to it is environmental enrichment for cats. And the best way to do that is to keep your cat happy, playing, being active, and keeping them physically fit as well as mentally.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 10:31
Amy, when you’re working with somebody on behavior because I know it’s a big thing that people oftentimes it’s behavior related to things that we do as people. I’m sure there’s an element of just training the person
Amy Shojai, Certified Animal Behaviorist – 10:49
It’s easier to train the cat.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 10:31
When you bring that in and you have that, kind of speaking off of what Dr. Lynn just said in keeping cats active and playful. Is there a recommendation of here’s how many minutes or hours a day you need to think about doing this for your cat?
Amy Shojai, Certified Animal Behaviorist – 11:09
Well, of course, every cat is different. We don’t like to say, cookie-cutter, they’re all aloof, independent little creatures. Every one of them is different. But really, I agree with Dr. Lynn, many of our cats now suffer that the behavior issues are so intertwined with the health issues, you can’t separate the two anymore.
If you have a cat that’s intractable that you cannot handle that has diabetes, you cannot give him an insulin injection. If you have cats that are very stressed and upset, they may not even be interested in playing until you can calm that stress down a little bit. So it’s not a specific amount of time, I think enrichment has to do, you have to think about the five senses and what cats want out of life. And it’s no different than us. They want security. They want a safe place to sleep that the dog’s not going to bother them.
I’m looking over my shoulder at my 125 lbs puppy.
Chloe DiVita, All Pet Voices Co-Founder – 12:10
I know. We saw him come in.
Let’s talk about cat enrichment ideas. What do you recommend for creating a positive and healthy environment for your cat? There are cat enrichment toys, scratchers, hideaways… but do you have other cat enrichment ideas?
HOW TO ENRICH YOUR CAT
Amy Shojai, Certified Animal Behaviorist – 12:12
I’m fortunate because the cat and the dog love each other and they pick at each other and that’s enrichment for animals that get along. Adopt two cats. Adopt two kittens. They enrich each other. The play there, nothing’s better. Toys are great, but nothing’s better than playing with another kitten.
Find out more about how to enrich your cat’s life by watching the full video above!
For more information Cat Enrichment, Amy Shojai, and Dr. Lynn Bahr:
Dezi Roo’s Website – deziroo.com
Amy Shojai’s Website – amyshojai.com
FREE Cat Enrichment Class from Amy Shojai – https://event.webinarjam.com/channel/CatEnrichment
How do you make cat enrichment a priority in your home? Share your ideas in the comments to inspire other cat parents, and find new ideas for your furry friends!